One of my favorite parts about exploring a new country is learning the culture and the language. Even though Ireland is an English-speaking country, there are definitely Irish phrases that are a language unto their own.
Here are some of the more common ones:
- Craic (pronounced “crack”): Fun, or a good/solid time. Can be used to describe a person or an experienced, e.g., “Stephanie is good craic” or “Galway is great craic.”
- Note: You should never say “a” good craic or great craic. It’s always just “good craic” or “great craic”
- Any craic / What’s the craic: What’s new? What’s going on? Anything fun happening? What’s happening? As in, “How was your weekend – any craic?”
- Yer one/Yer man: Sort of like a pronoun when telling a story and referring to a third party. As in, “I went up to the bar and yer man [the bartender] told me they were all out of Guinness!” Sometimes stories can involve several “yer mans,” so you have to pay attention because it can get difficult to tell them apart!
- Come here [to me now]: Signals that you should pay attention to the question that is about to be asked, because it’s either a change in subject or something slightly secretive. Usually said pretty quickly (“Come’ere”). The first time I heard this I was sitting next to my co-worker, and when he said, “Come here, what do you think of ___,” I thought he meant for me to physically move closer to him – which I didn’t quite think was possible, as we were sharing a small desk already!
- Feck / shite: These are harmless cousins of their stronger counterparts. (For example, a co-worker’s kids are allowed to say “feck” – but heaven forbid if they swap the “e” for a “u”…)
- “Feck off” is a common expression, usually to express disbelief. “I won the lottery!” “Ah feck off!”
- Ye: Plural of “you”. Similar to the southern American “y’all”
- Fair play: Good for them/you, usually in the context of them making the most of a less-than-desirable circumstance, or working hard to accomplish something. As in, “He
- Grand: fine, as in “I’m so sorry I was late!” “No problem, you’re grand!” Note: “grand” is a bit of a binary word – either something or someone is grand or they’re not; it can’t be halfway
- Brilliant: Excellent/great, as in “I got Ed Sheeran tickets!” “Really? Brilliant!” Or, “What do you think of Ed Sheetan?” “Oh, he’s brilliant – I really like Shape of You!” (Note that this expression doesn’t have any connection with a person’s intellect.)
- Nice: Purely, un-complicatedly good, as in “How’s the steak?” “Really nice.”
- It’s interesting that the level of emphasis and meaning is inverse to the American meanings of these three words – usually if an American says something is “nice,” it can be viewed as one level above tolerable, where as to the Irish, it’s actually one of the best compliments.
Every now and then I’ll come across more Irish colloquialisms or slang that I have to ask for clarification on, so I’ll be sure to add them here!